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Game Preview | Saints vs. Eagles

Yes, Jalen Hurts will make his first career start at quarterback Sunday when the Eagles host the New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field (3:40 PM Kickoff Show presented by Axalta/4:25 PM kickoff on FOX). Here's a quick look at how rookies have performed under center for the Eagles in recent years.

First Starts by Eagles Rookie Quarterbacks Since 1999

Below is a list of how rookie quarterbacks have fared in their first start for the Eagles since Donovan McNabb's rookie campaign of 1999.

• Donovan McNabb (1999) – 8/21 for 60 yards, 49 rushing yards in 35-28 win over Washington

• Nick Foles (2012) – 21/46 for 204 yards, 2 INT in a 31-6 loss to Washington

• Carson Wentz (2016) – 22/37 for 278 yards, 2 TDs in a 29-10 win over Cleveland

Sunday's game will present quite a challenge as the Saints look to clinch the NFC South title and maintain the No. 1 seed in the conference. The Saints enter Sunday's game with a league-best nine-game win streak and hold a one-game lead over the Packers for the first-round bye and home-field advantage for the playoffs.

The Eagles will learn about the rookie second-round pick and the rest of the offense. There will be a 12th different starting offensive line combination for the Eagles with Nate Herbig back at right guard and Jack Driscoll at right tackle. Head Coach Doug Pederson hinted at other potential changes.

The Saints are known for their top-flight offense, but it's the defense that's powered the team to the top of the conference. Since Week 9, according to NFL Media Research, the Saints' defense is first in the NFL in points allowed (8.8 per game), yards allowed (233.4 per game), rushing yards allowed (55.8 per game), red zone (22.2 percent), and takeaways (13).

Now, let's not get carried away. The offense is still one of the most productive units in the game. Taysom Hill will make his fourth career start in place of Drew Brees, who is on Injured Reserve with a ribs injury. With Hill at quarterback since Week 11, the Saints have averaged 200.7 rushing yards per game, most in the NFL over that span according to NFL Media Research. Believe it or not, though, it's impacted running back Alvin Kamara in the pass game. With Brees, Kamara led the league in targets per route run (36.9 percent), per NFL Media Research. That's down to 15 percent. Meanwhile, wide receiver Michael Thomas has feasted with targets on 41.4 percent of his routes since Hill took over. The Saints are also averaging a league-high 7.3 big plays (10+ runs/20+ pass) per game in Hill's starts, according to NFL Media Research.

Will the Eagles be up to the challenge? Learn more in our Game Preview, presented by Unibet.

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro's 3 keys to an Eagles victory

1. Lock down running back Alvin Kamara. It is a multiprocess endeavor and every team that plays the Saints has the same priority, but not many teams have done so. Kamara leads the Saints with 673 rushing yards and 655 rushing yards. His 1,328 yards from scrimmage are third in the NFL to go along with nine rushing touchdowns and four receiving scores. Kamara can do it all in on offense and he's going to present a tremendous burden to an Eagles linebacking corps that will have to account for Kamara and his power running style along with trying to corral him in space in the passing game. He has 70 receptions and 143 carries. Kamara is the definition of the multiple-threat back in today's NFL.

2. The Eagles' offense, already challenged throughout the season with injuries and inconsistency, now faces the best defense in the league in terms of yards allowed. New Orleans has a terrific unit that ranks second in the league against the run (76.1 yards), fifth against the pass (212.8 yards), and fourth in points per game allowed (20.1 points). There just are no easy ways to attack a Saints defense that brings it off the edges with Trey Hendrickson (10.5 sacks) and Cameron Jordan (6.5) leading the way. Former Eagle Malcolm Jenkins has been a mainstay for New Orleans attacking the line of scrimmage and recording 4.5 tackles for loss. New Orleans is fast, aggressive, and deep on defense.

3. A key statistic to measure wins and losses in the NFL? How about turnover differential. The Eagles have struggled with too many giveaways and not enough takeaways this season, and their minus-11 is 30th in the NFL, ranking only ahead of Dallas and Denver. Meanwhile, New Orleans has a plus-7, ranking among the best teams in the league with Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Cleveland, and Miami. Notice the teams at the top of the list? They're all on playoff tracks. The teams at the bottom are struggling. The Eagles need to win the turnover battle in this game.

Players to Watch

Saints DE Cameron Jordan

The NFC Defensive Player of the Month for November, Saints All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan, will present a challenge for the Eagles' young tackle duo of Jordan Mailata and Jack Driscoll. Jordan is adept at getting to the quarterback. He was third in the NFL with 15.5 sacks in 2019 and posted five more during his award-winning month. At 6-4, 287 pounds, Jordan is also stout against the run as the Saints are poised to finish as a top-five run defense for the third consecutive season. The Saints are known for their top-flight offense, but Jordan is a game-wrecker on the defensive side of the ball.

Eagles LB Alex Singleton

With Taysom Hill at quarterback, linebacker Alex Singleton will have plenty to keep track of on defense. Since entering the starting lineup in Week 6 against the Ravens, he's had three games with double-digit tackles (led the team in tackles in four games), a sack, and a fumble recovery. He also recorded a pick-six to seal the win over the 49ers. Hill is not afraid to use his legs. Hill is 54-of-76 for 543 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, along with 176 rushing yards and four scores on the ground in the wins over Atlanta (twice) and Denver in his three starts. The Saints are winners of nine straight games overall.

By the Numbers

156 – Brandon Graham is set to play in his 156th career regular-season game for the Eagles, which will set a new franchise record (Trent Cole) for most games played by a defensive lineman.

22 – The Eagles haven't fared well in New Orleans of late, but won the last meeting in Philadelphia, 39-17, by 22 points. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox set a career high with three sacks (since tied in Week 17 at Washington in 2018) and earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

.647 – Even after last week's loss, Head Coach Doug Pederson is 11-6 in the month of December, good for a .647 win percentage.

9.7 – The Eagles' defense gets to the quarterback with a pass rush rate of 9.7 percent, the third best in the NFL.

15.1 – The Saints use six offensive linemen 15.1 percent of the time, most in the NFL.

69.3 – Saints quarterback Taysom Hill has the second-best completion percentage in the NFL.

20 – The Saints lead the league with 20 rushing touchdowns.

31.2 – The Saints play dime on defense 31.2 percent of the time, fourth most in the league.

20.3 – The Saints' defense uses stunts 20.3 percent of the time, most in the NFL, which will be something to watch for the Eagles' offensive linemen.

18 – The Saints lead the league with 18 sacks on third down.

Final Injury Report

SAINTS

OUT

• DT Malcom Brown (shoulder)

• CB Patrick Robinson (hamstring)

QUESTIONABLE

• WR Deonte Harris (neck)

EAGLES

OUT

• LB T.J. Edwards (hamstring)

• S Rudy Ford (hamstring)

• CB Michael Jacquet (hamstring)

• G Jason Peters (toe/placed on IR)

QUESTIONABLE

• DB Grayland Arnold (hamstring)

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